Category Archives: Japanese

Basho – the Scent of the Plum

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The scent of the plum

The scent of the plum (ume)
Chased again and again
By winter’s wind

Japanese

梅が香に 追いもどさるる 寒さかな

Ume ga ka ni/ Oimo dosa ruru/ Samusa kana

Meaning of Basho’s Scent of Plum Blossoms

Who does not recall an early spring, the scent of the plum blossom, chased away by the cold, again and again?

Until spring is here to stay.

Line one, 梅, ume, the Japanese plum tree symbolizes spring’s start, because its early blossoms flower in February and March.

Line two, 追いもどさ is a bit of a struggle for me. Chased, pursued, run after, driven away are all candidates as the action verb. るる may be translated as continuously, but I have chose “again and again”. Line three 寒 is “cold”, but I used winter’s wind to keep Basho’s 4-7-4 pattern.

This simple haiku’s beauty lies in the ending rhyme of the three lines:

kani – ruru – kana

Land of Oz

Wonder of wonders, I came across a small grove of “ume” trees blossoming and bearing fruit in the sandy soil of a pond created out of an old sand pit. The tree is more akin to an apricot and the fruit is tart and sweet. The birds and the local animals enjoy the fruit, but I get my share.

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Potsu potsu

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old farm house, Franklin County, Kansas

 

On Facebook, I came across this saying from a Japanese friend, “…potsu potsu.” It was her sad remark accompanying the departure of her child to another city, another place far far away. I too felt this emotion this last week with my daughter’s departure to Dallas. Though it is only five hours away, it is still another place, far away from home.

The phrase may have other contexts, Dictionary of Iconic Japanese Expressions, but for me it is:

 

 

And “bit by bit” the world changes until it is unrecognizable.

 

Peut-être, les Français dirait, petit à petit,do you agree? Pardonnez-moi pendant que je regrette ma perte, sa prise.

old-house-pink
petit a petit

 

 

Beneath the Cherry Tree

Beneath the Cherry Tree
Dedicated to Kajii Motojirō (梶井基次郎)
December 1927

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I sit beneath the cherry tree
To rest and think
The earth is awake and has tilted
Until the sun shines and shares its light
With day and night
Like two children loved equally and
As each child knows,
Spring is here Hanami begins,
In Japan the cherry blossom flowers, so
Let us be happy, eat our dumplings, drink our sake
Let young and old gather beneath the tree to divine
When the time shall come to plant the rice
And with paper lanterns to light the night
To feel the gentle southern breeze
And shake off winter’s woes
Spring is here
Each morning brighter
The songbird’s song cheerier
The budding leaf greener, the flower fuller
Anticipating fly or bee
Love is strange to flowers
I think
Morning dew moistens the earth
But as Motojirō Kajii knows there are
Bodies are buried beneath the cherry tree
Bodies decomposing, ashes to ashes, and bones to dirt
Sap rising to nourish and make it grow
Even the beauty of the songbird’s song
The shimmering light in the white flowers and Spring’s warm breath
Cannot erase the thought of bodies buried beneath the cherry tree
I shake my head and still I know
Spring is here
And I want to say,
Arise, the earth is alive again

 

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